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Westfield Century City: Reimagining the American Shopping Mall

The retail environment is transforming into an experiential setting. At Westfield’s Century City Flagship Mall in Los Angeles, OJB and the design team, including Kelly Wearstler Design, reimagined the existing outdoor retail environment for the modern-day shopper. Inspired by a Mid-Century California Modern aesthetic, the entries, gardens, plazas, terraces and streetscapes offer layered sensorial experiences that draw shoppers in while creating a seamless between indoor-outdoor rooms. Curated plantings, charming water features and selective site furnishings establish green spaces that encourage guests to rest and come together during their visit. Taken together, these landscape elements contribute to a shopping experience that invites relaxation and gathering, and repositions the retail development as a destination for shopping, dining, cultural and musical events and a new locus for community.

Traditional American malls paid little attention to the experience outside the store, with little seating or opportunity to gather outside of food courts. As consumers shift to online shopping, retailers are challenged to reinvent the multi-store experience as a place beyond shopping as a singular activity. At the same time, many of these traditional and aging inward-facing malls are requiring significant capital and infrastructure investment.

The existing Westfield Mall was similarly challenged, with undifferentiated exterior facades and narrow interior shopping pathways. Seeking to transform this traditional outdoor mall to enliven the pedestrian experience and combine shopping with dining and event spaces, the client hired OJB as part of a larger design team to find new ways to take advantage of the temperate California climate and extend amenity areas so that visitors can shop, meet, and find community. Landscape and circulation planning went hand in hand to accomplish these aspirations.

At Century City, the design team created an unparalleled transformational outdoor retail experience, injecting unique sensory encounters for the modern-day shopper at every level. Eight acres of outdoor space, including a new central courtyard plaza leads visitors through open-air cafés and plazas that house world-class restaurants, while several central event and entertainment spaces activate the site day and night. Westfield Century City’s transformation is home to Nordstrom’s three-level Los Angeles flagship store, as well as the world-renowned Eataly, the largest Italian marketplace in the world.

The plazas, terraces, gardens and water elements drive the overall retail experience of this Southern California mall. The hardscape and curated plantings, as well as site furnishings, build upon the mid-century modern heritage of the original mall. Groves of olive trees are a nod to the area’s Mediterranean legacy and the sculptural berms feature native grasses and shaded seating enclaves that provide respite from the sun and shopping.

The curated plantings and architectural planters provide layered sensory experiences. The design plays with reflective pools and plants to foster a tranquil green space. An emphasis on outdoor plazas and terraces within the retail setting are reimagined as a garden respite and urban oasis.

A tranquil urban oasis is fostered by canopies of palm trees floating above pools of water, which create a subtle movement of reflected light and shade. Pathway plantings feature climate appropriate specimens selected for their sculptural and textural qualities. Raised planters, olive trees and outdoor fire pits are arranged effortlessly to provide lounging areas for visitors to gather and relax. Green walls and trees planted on structure are strategically integrated into the design, and hanging planters featuring a variety of aromatic plants and flowers provide visual, vertical appeal.

The centerpiece of the project is the Atrium, a state-of-the-art entertainment and events venue that affords flexible space for a variety of programs, including performances, fashion shows and art exhibits. Two 50-year-old heritage olive trees were carefully preserved and transplanted at the event terrace and are accentuated by a water feature that adds reflected light to the space. Movable planters allow for ever changing points of interest and activities. Pattern, planting, water and seating are woven through the retail corridors, invigorating the mind, body, and soul in unexpected moments of discovery.

The landscape design pays attention to each project entry, drawing the shopper in through groves of olive trees adorned with whimsical lighting at the West Santa Monica Boulevard entrance and offering a distinctive hanging vine planter at the East Santa Monica Boulevard entrance. The entry at Constellation Boulevard employs geometric paving and sculptural landscape elements. While each entry corridor is visually unique, exposed aggregate-honed concrete paving provides continuity throughout the project.

Name of the project: Westfield Century City: Reimagining the American Shopping Mall
Role of the entrant in the project: Landscape Architecture subconsultant
Other designers involved in the design of landscape: Gensler, Kelly Wearstler Design, Selbert Perkins Design, RA Smith National, HLB Lighting Design
Project location (For publicly accessible projects please include exact address. For Private gardens place write Country or State): 10250 Santa Monica Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90067
Design year: 2014
Year Built: 2017

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